Vikings hire 18-year-old to be their 'Gen Z advisor'

It comes as the NFL struggles to engage younger viewers.
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It comes as the NFL struggles to engage younger viewers.

The Minnesota Vikings made another notable signing this week – but not on the field.

The Vikes announced Wednesday that they've taken on 18-year-old Twin Cities author and public speaker Jonah Stillman to serve as their Generation Z Advisor.

Stillman is a Minnetonka High School graduate who co-wrote a book with his father David entitled Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation is Transforming the Workplace. He travels the country consulting with organizations on how to engage the young post-millennial generation.

He will now consult with the Vikings too, helping them on club business initiatives including team marketing and "fan activation efforts," as well as assisting with digital media content and strategy, the U.S. Bank Stadium experience and STEM opportunities.

In an interview with the Star Tribune, Stillman notes that Gen Z people – born between 1995-2002 – are "unique" and should be considered separate from millennials.

Describing Gen Z as "the most tech savvy generation to date," he says young adults are using social media in new ways, and are after "more exciting and private platforms" such as Snapchat "where we have more control over who sees our posts."

Arguably more important than social media though, he adds, is face-to-face interaction, because Gen Z members feel it's the "most authentic" form of communication.

The NFL's young-person problem

The move from the Vikings to engage the post-millennial generation comes at a time when football is facing a challenge attracting young players, and the NFL young viewers.

The Atlantic notes that TV ratings for NFL games last season were down across the board, as increasingly more young adults become "cord-cutters," shunning expensive cable packages in favor of cheaper online streaming options, not all of which carry NFL coverage.

(Here's our comparison of the different streaming options, by the way.)

The NFL's dominance of the American sporting landscape is likely to continue, but Fansided predicts we're about to see a generational change brought about mainly by concern over the long-term effects of playing football.

The increased focus on ex-players contracting CTE (a recent study found 110 or 111 dead former NFL players had some form of the brain disease) is making parents think twice about letting their children play football.

In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported the number of prep football players has declined by about 4,000 since 2003, though it's still higher than participation rates in the 1980s.

Whether this is related to concern about the long-term effects of concussions is not known, with the newspaper noting that the main thing driving the decrease is demographics, as there were 11,000 fewer boys aged 14-17 in Minnesota last year than there were in 2003.

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